The email said that a friend was selling his entire cellar – health reasons – and the sender, an acquaintance of mine, asked if I might be interested in buying it. I took a look at the attached spreadsheet, absolutely yes, I was interested. I bought that cellar, well, most of it, anyway.
Buried within the couple of hundred bottles of this cellar – mostly names/producers I was already familiar with, from all over Europe and also a splash of high-end California Cab, all from very good vintages – were about a half dozen wines from a producer I had never heard of; more than 10 years later, this would lead to my discovery of farming/winegrowing on a whole different level.
These wines would be 20 years old right now, but I’ve already drank all of them, so I can only guess how they might be holding up.
If you’d asked me 10 years ago, when I began to open some of these bottles, I’d have guessed they would hold up another 3-5 years. And that’s the part of this whole fine wine journey that just tickles me – you pay for a wine, maybe you open it straightaway, or maybe you cellar it for years, either way, you get to enjoy it – but, with this hobby/problem/passion, you also sometimes get an added bonus, one you did not pay for but received anyway – enlightenment. A real, honest to goodness lesson, a gift from nature to you. Well, it’s more than just nature, it’s also man, listening to and respecting nature. (below: Sangiovese winegrowing in complete harmony with its environment)
What was it about that seed that was planted all those years ago, who was it that took a hammer and chisel and etched this experience, this lesson, into my memory? These wines were not on anyone’s radar (i.e. the media/press), or if they were, I couldn’t find much. But I liked these wines – they were honest in a way I’d rarely ever come across before. There was a lightness, a subtle, delicate beauty at the core of these wines. Which is to say there was no over-manipulation, no picking a week or two after everyone else had already done so – for effect. There was no style here, other than purity, clean, honest purity. And over the next few years, after I’d opened a few, I no longer just liked, I loved these wines.
When I first began to drink them, the majority of my cellar was California Cabernet and red blends – Insignia, Mondavi Reserve, Togni, Shafer HSS, etc., but also a good deal of the enjoy-now (or later) type wines that were more affordable, easier to understand (e.g.Flora Springs, St. Supery, etc.). Beyond my California collection, I had what I thought was a good representation of the rest of the winegrowing world, too. But, instead of a case of each wine, I’d have one or two; I probably had 150 wines to cover the rest of the world, it was about 50/50, whites and reds. If I recall correctly, there were likely a few wines from Chianti Classico region – mostly Fontodi and Felsina.
In my next post, I’ll take you inside the humble, honest world of the wines from Casa Emma (“who?”, “what are you talking about, I know wine(s) from this region, I’ve never heard of them, before! Surely you’re a shill!”), and explain their winegrowing and raising of these wines.
(below: I’m not a fan of their packaging/labels. Like most, I like things that catch my eye, are unique, maybe even flashy, aesthetically easy to approach – tasty and filling with just one serving. That said, the labels are like the wines, and the people, at Casa Emma, no-frills, no hype or banter, no loud colors, just honesty. At every turn. 360 degrees of honesty. What a feeling!
(header photo: winegrowing at Casa Emma, in the heart of Chianti Classico region, April 2014. I purposely chose this photo as it was nothing that ‘popped‘, nothing that attracted attention to itself. It’s not the dust jacket that matters, it’s what’s inside the book.)